by Vista Kalipa (@vistak) Quietly and without fanfare, we’re seeing subtle changes in the way in which people interact in the business arena — in the way we communicate in emails, business calls, virtual meetings and online.
Genuine and sincere
It seems almost unnecessary to say it but the covid-19 pandemic is changing many aspects of our lives, not least the way in which we communicate. Since the first cases of what seemed to be a new acute respiratory disease were reported to the World Health Organisation on 31 December 2019, a number of communications trends have emerged, giving us a sense of nostalgia for a time when our interactions with others were more genuine and sincere.
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In emails, workplace etiquette has always dictated that we be polite in our opening and closing salutations. With varying degrees of familiarity, opening salutations would read anything from “Dear Sir/Madam” to “Hi Thando”, depending on one’s relationship with the addressee. Similarly, mails would end with greetings such as “Your sincerely”, “Yours faithfully”, “Best regards”, “Kind regards” or, simply, “Take care”.
Since the advent of the novel coronavirus and the social distancing and lockdowns that soon followed, there’s been a growing concern about the wellbeing of friends, family and colleagues. Even business salutations have changed to greetings such as “I hope you’re keeping safe”, “Please stay safe” or “Stay safe during the lockdown”. The sentiment expressed in these greetings is genuine and sincere, even when the working relationship between the parties isn’t a particularly close one.
Health and well-being
In phone conversations, small talk about the weather and the frustrations of the day has given way to discussions about social distancing, the lockdown and the effects of isolation. Exchanges among friends, family, colleagues and even business associates have become more personal, with people checking in on one another and enquiring about their health and well-being.
On a broader basis, businesses are finding ways of keeping channels of communication open during the lockdown, understanding that social distancing measures will need to be practiced for some time to come. Companies of all sizes are finding creative ways for employees to keep in touch by, eg, using meeting platforms such as Zoom, Bluejeans, Google Meet, Teams and Webex which allow participants to see one another and engage easily, even if they’re not all in the same room.
Similarly, they’re looking for innovative ways to stay engaged with their customers, target markets and the public in general. Publishers are conducting virtual launches of their books, auction houses are holding online auctions, financial institutions are hosting online discussions sessions about how to manage one’s finances during and after the lockdown, and commercial art galleries are offering virtual tours of exhibitions that are currently closed to the public. Institutions with established online learning platforms are offering free MOOCs (mass open online courses and webinars), and even content creators and influencers are hosting regular chat sessions with their followers.
New spirit of camaraderie
Almost counterintuitively, the Covid-19 crisis is taking us back to a more-personal, -engaged way of communicating, facilitated by advanced communications technologies, some of which weren’t available even a decade ago. There is a new spirit of camaraderie and a sense of community becoming evident, and a profound realisation that, beyond surface differences, we are, in fact, all one.
As great a crisis as it is, the Covid-19 pandemic is humbling us, bringing us back to an understanding of what’s really important and, in an age of rapid technological development, reminding us of what it means to be human again.
Vista Kalipa (@vistak) is the co-founder and director public relations at OnPoint PR (@onpointpr_sa) and, since 2010, has led his team of strategists and PR practitioners on behalf of clients such as Nedbank, American Express (Africa), Global Citizen (Africa), Unilever brands, and Pioneer Foods. A known stickler for spelling and grammar, Vista’s passionate about the PR profession, is a contributor to industry publications and has appeared as a guest lecturer/speaker in media institutions around Gauteng.
This MarkLives #CoronavirusSA special section contains coverage of how the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and its resultant disease, covid-19, is affecting the advertising, marketing and related industries in South Africa and other parts of Africa, and how we are responding. Updates may be sent to us via our contact form or the email address published on our Contact Us page. Opinion pieces/guest columns must be exclusive.